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Decorum Be Damned

By August 26, 2013

Marcus Hopkins In RubberThe night I won the title of Mr. Pistons Leather 2010, it was entirely by accident.  I had entered the contest not because I had any desire, whatsoever, to hold a leather title, but because my friend, Jeff Wacha, said there were only two contestants, one of them was a semi-permanent shill used as a filler where there are no other candidates, and that if I was going to bitch about the leather title culture, I should enter it to see what they go through to get there.

I had never intended to win the contest.  I had joking offered my then-partner my agreement to run for a title of his choosing in exchanging for flying to Kingsport, TN and driving with me across the country to move to Long Beach, CA.  When Jeff threw the idea out there, I though, "What the hell?  [Partner] thinks I can't win, because I'm too much of a brash asshole."  Like the vengeful character in a cheesy daytime soap, I shook my figurative fist - "I will enter this contest!"

No one expected me to win, primarily because...well, I am a brash asshole, sometimes.  Growing up in New York City in the 80s, I managed to craft a somewhat adversarial approach to group interaction.  If someone says something stupid, I'll call them out on it; if they do something ridiculous, I'll let them know it.  It's a very "Northeastern" personality quirk that most of America mistake for being "rude," but is really just harsh honesty designed not only to save you time, but even heartache.  When there's a cancer, it's best to cut it out early.

After the initial group hug from the Los Angeles Band of Brothers (insert plug, here) and a rare deep kiss from my partner, I waded through the congratulatory crowd to get to the bar where my Philoctetean efforts were rewarded with a nice, cold Bud Light Lime.

As I went to take my first sip, someone with a camera wandered over and asked me to pose with one of the Long Beach Royal Court, and a new acquaintance of mine literally ripped the beer bottle out of my hand and said, "Don't you EVER let yourself be photographed with a drink in your hand!"

This wasn't my first brush with the nightmare that is being a titleholder, however.  Prior to the contest, my partner (Mr. Sanctuary 2008) sent me a much vaunted document written by a now-deceased former titleholder called the "Titleholder Bootcamp," or something similarly cliché.  Within this sixty-page tome, I learned all of the Dos and Don'ts of the titleholder world:

-Don't be photographed smoking a cigarette.  Cigars, however, are fine.

-Don't be photographed drinking alcohol.

-Don't go to leather bar dressed in anything other than leather.

-Never wear both your title vest and your medallion.

-ALWAYS wear your medallion when in public

-Don't do porn during our title year; if you do, don't wear your vest or medallion.

-Don't be caught with un-shined boots or leathers.

-Never say you're tired.

-Never get into an argument about religion or politics.

The list was both exhaustive and exhausting, encapsulating everything I felt was wrong with the title community.  These guidelines were almost literally parroted directly from a beauty contest handbook, and if this was what I was getting into, why the fuck even bother with it?  My life didn't need to turn out any more like "Drop Dead Gorgeous."

After reading that document, as well as the various things I should need to know - "Learn and know the entire Hanky Code!" - I decided to do what was best for me and say, "Fuck it!" and I chucked the whole thing out the window of my new apartment.

...I then went outside of my new apartment and threw all that paper into the recycling bin.

When my newly met acquaintance all but verbally assaulted me about being photographed with a beer in my hand, I promptly began seething with fury.  "I'm a fucking BAR titleholder!  I'm basically HERE to be an alcoholic!"

And so, without further ado, I went about ensuring that every single photo not only of me, but of every other titleholder in my class, contained an alcoholic beverage with each of us holding our medallion up to the camera.  

There were photos of me "passed out" in my title vest and medallion in Bullet Bar surrounded by empty beer bottles and ashtrays filled with cigarette butts, all neatly arranged to look like I'd smoked and drank myself into unconsciousness.

There were photos of me and every titleholder doing shots holding out medallions in rebellion against what I, and many others, felt was an outdated, outmoded approach to being a "titleholder."

I would make sure that I had a halo of cigarette smoke encircling my head in every photo op.  

In my professional titleholder photos, I was photographed using the Leather Pride flag as a makeshift Burka (and little else).

In addition to breaking these social faux pas, I also broke the cardinal rule of holding a title - I didn't let IT define "Me."  In bars, when people would come up to me and squint at the medallion on my chest, I would apologize, throw my medallion over my shoulder to rest on my back, and introduce myself.

"Hi!  I'm Marcus.  I really hate that thing; it keeps getting in the way."

At events, I wouldn't go up to people and introduce myself as "Mr. Pistons Leather 2010," because, frankly, it's fucking pretentious.

Looking back, now, a lot of what I did was a somewhat juvenile rebellion against what I saw, and still see, as an antiquated tradition that's been trumped up to look like it has some level of legitimacy.  But, honestly, it needed to be done.  Someone needed to make some waves.  Today, still, the L.A. titleholders are photographed with drinks in their hands, and the ones who smoke with cigarettes.

Watching my friends in the Straight/Pan communities' contests make me cringe, because the pressure to conform to the image is especially formidable, there, and I'm always hoping that there will be some courageous Dommé who will step up and say, "Fuck this shit!" grab a beer, and throw it back in her ridiculously tight corset and floor-length bondage gown, if only because someone NEEDS to do it.

The purpose of being a titleholder is to entertain people.  We're not the fucking Royal Family, and we needn't walk around with their bejeweled scepters shoved firmly up our asses.

...unless you're into that.  Then, you make sure someone's taking a picture while it's being inserted, title sash and medallion in full view, if only as a great big "Fuck You!"